Ride The Wild Worm, страница 1
RIDE THE WILD WORM
by Michael Carter
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Thomas Jackson Esq.
23A Lumley Guesthouse
United States Of America
15th May 1999
Hello again, old friend. Hope you are well back in England, and savouring the warm spring rain and feasting yourself on street-bought fish and chips. Believe it or not, those are the two things I miss most about England. The weather over here does change gradually as you move from state to state, but generally on a day-to-day basis it`s pretty standard. And the standard in Oklahoma is Hot!
And, Lord, Sherwood, you wouldn`t believe how difficult it is over here to get anything approximating battered cod and potato chips from a street-store. They seem to sell burgers and french fries and as far as snacks go, that`s about it. I do sometimes miss those lovely rolling hills and adventurous foliage of the English countryside, and all the fabulous things you can find within it. I was beginning to wish I`d decided on Europe for my destination; to cherish the villages and towns of the old countries, the architectural madness of the Bavarian chapels, the secret oddity rooms of the foul-smelling but beautifully decorated museums, the atmosphere and pathos of the lonely countryside where pagan traditions and fears still today run rampant.
But just last week, Sherwood, I witnessed a very strange - impossible, I say - occurrence and ritual which I have been begging to get down on paper and send to you; a malign discovery which definitely compensates my decision to tour in America. I thought that perhaps your mind, much more versed in erudite customs and forgotten wonders of the bizarre than mine, might be able to make sense of it. My guess is that, much like the Hindu fakirs with their rope tricks, a mass hallucination was somehow administered to the dozens of ordinary people in the audience. Now normally, as you know, I would be devoutly against the use of hypnotism or mind-control, especially in a large-scale situation such as this. However, this was something different; this was something magic and strange, amazing and terrifying, and if offered the chance of a repeat performance I would now gladly offer my mind as temporary payment.
I know it has been a while since last I wrote to you, but I wanted to wait until I really had something that was worthy of your attention. I suggest you read what follows with your usual calm and unhasty precision, and at the end of it you may want to consult books or journals in order to check details and try to unscramble the clues as to the nature of this unreal circus. Please bear in mind that I have xeroxed the bulk of this letter and mailed it to the Natural History Museum in London; if, as insane as it sounds, I witnessed those events in complete control of my consciousness, I hope and trust that the renowned museum will be able to identify as normal specimens the creatures that I saw. I have dreamt about them on three occasions since last week, and each time on waking I am reminded that they bear an uncanny resemblance to certain creatures of hyperbolic myth. I know that I need not go any further with these thoughts as yet; whichever mythical and esoteric direction my mind can take, yours will surely surpass. I will endeavor to get down a few thoughts at the end, but first I think it is about time I told you what it is that I actually saw.
In Oklahoma, even in spring, the days can get rather hot and fetid, and whereas earlier in the year and in slightly less warm locales I was up and about almost at dawn, filling my days with as much touring, sight-seeing and research as I could, in this unattractive hot weather I simply can`t find it in myself to venture from my room before four`o`clock in the afternoon. Thus, many of the events and meetings that I had intended to peruse have been unfortunately missed. It was on one mundanely hot Sunday afternoon that I rose from my restless bed after a previous late night re-reading my favourite Machen tales. I was just about to head off downstairs for a shower and a rather late breakfast when I noticed a small flyer that had been pushed under my door. It seems to be the custom in these parts that any advertiser wanting to promote his wares can roam freely around hotels and guesthouses, giving away flyers or sticking brochures under doors. Much of it is junk, advertising highly-priced novelty items on "limited" sale to gullible tourists. This flyer caught my attention however, as on the back of the main message were two words always guaranteed to get my attention: "SPECIAL EVENT". The front of the flyer was in much smaller text and the ink seemed to be smudged, evidently the produce of a cheap and ailing printer. From what I could read it appeared that later in the evening at a spot just out of town there was to be some kind of rodeo event, with horses, bulls, steers, and some "mystery surprise guests". Normally, I wouldn`t really be too excited at the prospect of a rodeo show, but seeing as I`d already missed most of the day and no other opportunities looked likely to present themselves I thought I`d give it a try. The spiel about the "mystery star guests" didn`t intrigue me at all, as I guessed they would simply be either old stars of the rodeo circuit or else fading movie stars, probably from B-westerns which couldn`t afford real guns. But anyway, I had nothing to lose, and, after all, the asking price was only fifty cents.
After a brief breakfast - although my host preferred to call it supper - I left the house and slowly ambled down to the sandy main street of Kingspeake. I lost count of the amount of times I had to wipe my forehead with a cloth, such was the intensity of the evening heat, and I, an unaccustomed Englishman, must have been quite a sight to the native people who passed. I know these people are indigenous to this area and that all one needs is to get used to it, but I couldn`t shake the feeling that they were all somehow different from me, having a complexingly different metabolism which allowed them to stay outdoors all day in such ferocious temperatures. I noticed something else strange about them, too, although this wasn`t until I`d made my way off the streets and onto the desert-like savannah that passed for Oklahoma countryside. Wherever they walked, it seemed, there was always a little shuddering and shaking in the sand about six inches behind their feet; just a little unnatural movement in the sand and the dirt, following them wherever they went. If they changed direction then their persuing disturbance would do likewise, if they stopped moving, the sand would just settle back to normal, only to ripple again once the person moved. It was unnerving, I tell you, and even more so because it only seemed to occur with the men, between the ages of adolescence and retirement, and never with the women or the children, never with the myriad of old people who passed, and certainly - for I checked, on more than one occasion - not with me. After a time and a little surreptitious investigation I put it down to the weight of the men - usually big, strong individuals - somehow pressing down on the sand as they walked. After coming to this odd but bittersweet conclusion, I thought no more of it until the phenomenon re-appeared with nightmare intensity in my dreams.
It didn`t take long to reach the small arena where the rodeo was to take place. It was just like you`d imagine, just like you`ve seen on the television; a circular platform of raised wooden benches looking down onto a small sandy arena. There was seating for perhaps one hundred spectators and I noticed that the seats were being taken fast. I found myself an empty bench not too near the back but not too near the front either. I imagined that on occasion these rodeo stars borrowed "volunteers" from the audience and I had no wish to embarrass myself.
I must have sat there for perhaps twenty minutes waiting for the show to begin. During that time, when almost all the seats were filled, a young
Initially it was just as you`d expect. There were eccentricly-dressed men standing on horses as they galloped round the arena, there were men with obvious talents in the use of a lasso, there were a couple of painfully unfunny clowns doing a routine that would have had Charlie Chaplin spinning revolutions in his grave. After a brief break, there were a few barebacked riders doing their best to stay on the back of a frenzied horse, and some daredevil bullfighter impersonators. Then the clowns returned, and I almost got up and left.
But as soon as the thought of premature escape entered my head, the clowns cart-wheeled off to mild applause and in their place walked a very tall man in a long black suit. Over a microphone he listed the names of the performers and offered his thanks for